Statement of Purpose (SOP)

Write the short autobiography about you

Statement of Purpose, as we call it, is the most important document which will decide upon your qualification for a graduate school. Yes, it's indeed very critical to ensure the highest quality of your SOP. You need to have the ability to make a story out of your past career, knowledge, research experience, skills and interests. Therefore, don't haste through the process. Start writing early and pause in between for a week or two. Then again re-read the previous draft and form a new one. This pause provides with a different perspective every time. 
Adhere to the word-/page-limit set by the program. And you may go till 0.9-inch margins and 11-sized font. Don't go below that. If it's specifically mentioned, adhere to that strictly. An ideal SOP therefore, should have a word limit of around 1200-1500. 
The skeleton of a general SOP should be as follows:
  • First Paragraph: This should introduce the audience to your SOP. Include a "catchy" line for a good start. And describe your interest.  You can include any memories or inspiration which motivated you to pursue this field, for example, a seminar or a scientific paper etc. Also you may include about the course curriculum and interdisciplinary research. 
  • Second Paragraph: This is where you include your research experience. Try to connect all those experiences and it would be great if you can also give a motivation to all of these.  It is not necessary to strictly connect if both the experience are completely different, but if its possible try to do it. Write about your summer research experiences (stay brief), any project you did, any conference you attended. Finally, extensively describe your MS thesis research. Try to mention what your motivation was, what is the question, what result you expect from the experiments you performed, and what skills you learned.  Nevertheless, mention your achievements as well, if you consider that important and relevant.
  • Third Paragraph: Describe how these experiences motivated you to do research in your proposed field. Praise the university and program, and mention how that program specifically fits your interest and will help accomplish your goals. 
  • Fourth Paragraph: Describe what you want to do in the grad school, if you get accepted. Mention about 2-3 professors from that university and narrate how their lab research matches your interest. For this you need to have done some background research. You can also suggest some ideas or post some questions, that will help attract the selection committee. 
  • Fifth Paragraph: This is the concluding paragraph. Write about your long-term goals and how the program will help regarding this. Include a concluding line!
Never bold or italicize words in SOP. Let them go through the complete document. 
These are some of the web resources that will definitely help you understand what an SOP is, and will give you an idea of where and how to start.
  1. A Selector’s statement:
  2. Cornell’s statement about the SOP and its style:
  3. Berkeley SOP:
  4. Berkeley PS:
  5. MIT’s guidelines and steps about writing an excellent SOP for the PhD program:
  6. Harvard guidelines for the SOP:
  7. Counselor's advice:
This is a post in LinkedIn that contains multiple links to various SOPs, which can be usefu!!
Warning: Only REFER; don't blindly follow these pages, because these has been written according to their own guidelines. Refer to your own schools, for the specific questions that you would need to answer.  
Personal Statement
Some universities require another document where you sell about your non-academic aspects. Here showcase your leadership skills and any instance where you showed community service. Also, include any experiences regarding the challenges you faced and what you did to overcome those. If you have anytime faced challenges in your career and your education got disrupted. Also, include diversity statement here, as how you are acclimatized to live with people around you from different culture, tradition, ethnicity and sexual orientations.
 The Most important part: USE YOUR OWN CREATIVITY